If you’ve been looking for a greatest-hits medley of Shakespearean scenes about drinking and carousing, performed at a local brewery with a healthy dose of audience participation, then boy does Bare Theatre have a show for you.
The performances in Raleigh and Durham this month, called ShakesBEER, feature a skeleton cast of actors springing from character to character and swapping genders, accents and roles with ease.
The show sprinkles in modern references and songs throughout, and it delights in breaking the fourth wall seemingly as often as possible. There have probably never been so many laughs at the (normally) sober “Sound and Fury” speech of Macbeth’s, nor so many “yo mama” jokes exchanged between Montagues and Capulets.
The shows, which can be found the next couple weeks in Wake, Durham and Orange county bars, all start at 8 p.m.
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And if you can’t make any of the remaining September shows, don’t worry. Chuck Keith, the writer in residence for Bare Theatre, said there’s another round of performances in the works for November and December – dates to be announced later at www.baretheatre.org.
“The hope is that this is something ongoing for the company and the actors that are a part of it,” Keith said. “The response of bars has been very positive and we feel good about ongoing interest.”
At 45 minutes, it’s shorter than a full play. And unlike at fancy theaters, the dress code at these brewery performances is whatever you want it to be. But on the flip side, the actors in a more traditional Shakespeare play probably wouldn’t steal a bite of your chips and dip mid-performance, or lead you onstage for a pretend sword fight with another audience member.
The fine players from Raleigh acting troupe Bare Theatre – directed by Dustin K. Britt – by might just do all of that – and more – at one of these shows.
You’ll have fun, in part because the actors are invested in doing that. Instead of selling tickets, they pass a hat around after the show and ask people to chip in however much they feel like.
“Multiples of $20 are preferred,” one actor quipped when I saw them at the Imurj bar in Raleigh.
If you enjoy Shakespeare only for Hamlet’s brooding monologues or Henry V’s inspiring speeches, you might not find what you’re looking for. But if you chuckled at the rotund Falstaff’s antics, or the innuendo in plays like “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” you’ll be a fan.
And don’t fret that you won’t be able to follow along if you didn’t take a Shakespeare class in college.
The actors often discuss when they’re switching to a new play – can you take an Uber to fair Verona? – and many of the scenes also get their own individual, memorable accents, ranging from Bella Lugosi to Janice from “Friends.”
It’s also worth mentioning that Shakespeare himself probably would’ve been proud at how much better beer is now than in Elizabethan England. And if you find yourself totally unable to follow along, don’t worry. You can blame alcohol-induced gibberish, just like Shakespeare does in “Othello” – “Drunk? And speak parrot? And squabble? Swagger? Swear?”
Sounds like a fun Friday night.
Doran: 919-836-2858; Twitter: @will_doran
All shows are at 8 p.m.
Sept. 4 at Full Steam Brewery in Durham
Sept. 5 at Full Steam Brewery in Durham
Sept. 6 at Imurj in Raleigh
Sept. 11 at Mystery Brewing Public House in Hillsborough